“Yellow Warblers” by Jason Sizemore



For week 30 of Deal Me In 2015, I drew the nine of spades, which I had assigned to the Story, “Yellow Warblers” from Jason Sizemore’s collection “Irredeemable.” Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here. If the name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because I posted about another story (“Sleeping Quartet“) by this author a couple months back.

Yellow Warblers”

He’d lived long enough to know the way of the spirits, to listen when they shouted across the heavens to warn the other side of danger.”

When I picked a couple stories from this collection for Deal Me In, I confess I based my selection on titles only, and, as an amateur birdwatcher for twenty years, this title appealed to me. I also knew the collection included stories that “are dark, powerful and unsettling,” so I was curious as the title’s meaning. I’m not sure I ever found out, which is okay.

Few conquests in the history of humanity have been absolute or “complete.” There are always pockets of resistance or remote areas that maybe the conquerors “just don’t care enough about” to fully bring under their rule. Think about the Kurds in modern day Iraq, or how hard Afghanistan has been to manage for its sundry invaders/conquerors. Maybe this phenomenon would hold true in the case of an extra-terrestrial conquest as well. Such appears to be the case in this story. It starts peacefully enough with a commonplace scene of rustic Appalachia. An old man, Jeremiah, is sitting on a church pew praying. Outside a Kentucky Warbler sings “joyfully.” But maybe not all is right. A visitor has arrived…

“The alien moved with a grace befitting its slender build and smooth, alabaster skin. The old man had seen one of these before. A Shadow , they’d called it. It had been… what… twenty-three years since last he’d seen one? But there it was, no mistaking. Those large almond eyes in an oval, slightly humanoid face.”

As you might guess, the way the peaceful Jeremiah wants to welcome the visitor is more than slightly different from that of his neighbors.

I found the following interesting observation in one online review of the “Irredeemable” collection. It rang true to me, and is especially apropos to this particular story, which actually included the line, “Xeno-what?” in its dialogue. 🙂

Appalachian cultural history shows a tendency toward xenophobia.’” People from outside this region will know the opposite is true as well: aliens (literal or figurative) to this region tend to fear it, and the stories in Irredeemable both capitalize on and castigate that fear.”

This story may be read on line here

Have you read any good short stories set in Appalachia? Care to recommend any? 🙂

(above: the yellow warbler I know from my birdwatching (I see these all the time); below: a Kentucky Warbler from the story – I almost never spot one around these parts…)

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